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How Congress Benefits from Outside Ethics Review

Without accountability, trust deteriorates, and corruption, or at least the appearance of it, is allowed to flourish while the public is left in the dark. 

The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building reflected in a puddle on top of a compass rose
The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. reflected in a puddle. Photo by Kalen Martin / Alamy Stock Photo


Campaign Legal Center has been fighting to make ethics enforcement the norm rather than the exception in the Senate, so illegal practices like insider stock trading, undisclosed travel, receipt of banned gifts from lobbyists, personal use of campaign funds, and fundraising in the Capitol can finally be a distant memory.

Each time the Senate Ethics Committee fails to truly investigate misconduct and hold members accountable, it establishes a dangerous precedent that self-interested, corrupt behavior by our elected officials is acceptable and wrongdoers will face no consequences. 

The U.S. House of Representatives addressed a similar problem in its chamber by forming the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in 2008, which is a nonpartisan, independent entity that investigates cases of alleged misconduct and makes referrals to the House Committee on Ethics.

There is no such body in the Senate, which currently relies on lawmakers for both reviewing potential ethics violations and enforcing the rules against their colleagues. This system creates inherent conflicts of interest, and as a result, ethics investigations in the House are far more effective and transparent.

Campaign Legal Center's new report focuses on this very topic, comparing the Senate’s current system of self-policing to the process utilized by the OCE. By breaking down each chamber’s procedures and demonstrating how the OCE has helped increase transparency and accountability in the House, CLC’s report makes a comprehensive case for why the Senate should create its own independent entity for ethics investigations.

On Tuesday, October 3, Campaign Legal Center hosted a virtual event examining the differences that exist between ethics investigations and enforcement in the House and Senate, and discussed the ways in which an OCE for the Senate could be established and implemented.

Event Video




Kedric Payne

Campaign Legal Center
Vice President, General Counsel, and Sen. Dir., Ethics


Eric Kashdan

Campaign Legal Center
Senior Manager, Legislative Strategy


Danielle Caputo

Campaign Legal Center
Legal Counsel, Ethics


Mike Capuano

Former U.S. Representative Mike Capuano, D-M.A.


Christopher Shays

Former U.S. Representative Chris Shays, R-C.T.